These Buskers Are Taking Their Show on the Road – Thanks to Jet Blue and VH1

Buskers, and street performers in general, are one of my favorite forms of entertainment.

I’ve written before about how much I enjoy going into Philadelphia, particularly Rittenhouse Square, and just watching drummers, singers, guitarists, cellists, jugglers, and balloon artists entertain the crowds.

It takes a special kind of individual to just go out in public and share their talents in such an intimate setting. Unfortunately, it seems as if these individuals do not make much from their efforts.

That’s why it was nice to see this ad from JetBlue that celebrates buskers, and at the end of the commercial, rewards them for the joy they bring to so many people in New York City.

Hopefully these three buskers will make their way to Philly and I’ll be there to witness it.

Here is a description of the campaign from JetBlue:

Every day, New York City buskers bring joy and excitement to the busy commuters that pass them by. Together with VH1 Save The Music, we believe the artists who play the background music to our city finally deserve to be center stage.

At the end of the commercial, it states:

Together we’re committed to ensuring that music education is a core component to a well-rounded education.

Thank you JetBlue and VH1 for your support of such a noble cause. Your efforts make a difference not only in the lives of the artists and students who benefit directly from your support, but also in the lives of the millions who get to see and hear these artists and experience the joy that music brings into our lives.

There’s Lazy, There’s Really Lazy, and Then There’s This

Nissan has announced the ProPilot Chair, a fleet of self-driving seats equipped with sensors that allow each chair to detect and follow the one in front of it.

Here’s a video showing off the technology:

When I first saw this, it seemed like the kind of thing Google would do for April Fools’ Day.

But apparently this is a real technology, the same type of technology that is used in its minivan, allowing it to detect and steer around corners, slow down when another car overtakes, and accelerate as a vehicle in front speeds up.

The scenario that is being used to show how these self-driving chairs could be used is waiting in line at a restaurant. It appears as if you just sit down in your chair in the order you arrived, and as it gets closer to your turn, the chair moves you closer and closer to the front of the line.

I love technology, but this one I just don’t get. Are we so lazy that we can’t stand or walk around aimlessly while we wait for our turn? Isn’t too much sitting supposed to be bad for our health? So why would a company develop a technology that encourages such behavior? Plus, aren’t you going to be sitting down to eat your meal in just a short while?

If it’s just a publicity stunt designed to show off some amazing technology, I’m fine with that. I just hope it doesn’t become an actual “thing”.

Because who knows what’s next?

“Alexa, drive me over to the fridge.”
“Alexa, open the fridge and hand me a beer.”
“Alexa, bring me back to my spot in front of the TV.”
“Alexa, call my doctor and ask them if I should be concerned about a sudden weight gain…”

29 Freshmen, One Junior, and One Really Old Guy

That’s the student make-up of the Calculus 1 class I am taking this semester.

And in case you couldn’t guess which group I fall into, I’m the really old guy.

It’s a strange feeling to go from teaching three classes and then hustling to the other side of campus so that I can sit in the back row of a classroom as a student.

I now have more empathy for students when they walk late into my class, telling me they have a class prior to mine on the other side of campus. Ten minutes is really pushing it. I’m also more aware of trying to make sure I don’t keep my students past the official end of class time, knowing that many of them may have a class they need to get to.

When I went to introduce myself to the teacher after the first day of class, I told him it had been almost 40 years since I had taken Calculus. He replied back “Four years?” To which I had to reply, “No, forty.” He seemed a little taken aback; I’m not even sure he’s that old.

You may be wondering why a 59-year old Accounting teacher is taking Calculus 1.

It’s part of a still somewhat fuzzy plan related to what I might do when I retire from teaching.

One thought I’ve had is to be an EMT, and I wrote last week about the Community Emergency Response Team course my son and I are taking. I thought the course would give me some clarity as to whether or not I should pursue the EMT license.

Another thought I’ve had is to do something with math and disadvantaged youth. I thought it might be helpful down the road to have some type of degree in math, and so I looked at what Villanova offered, and its Masters in Applied Statistics looked appealing. However, as part of the program, I need to take four pre-requisite courses – Calculus 1, 2, 3, and Differential Equations with Linear Algebra.

So that’s how I ended up in Calculus 1. I estimate it will take me almost seven years to complete the Masters degree, assuming I take one course per semester. That brings me right up to my estimated retirement time frame.

So far, the course has been challenging. It started off with a basic review of some concepts it seemed as if it was assumed we should know.  It seems for many of the students in the class that the material so far has been a review of what they had the previous year in high school, based on how few notes some of the students take. On the other hand, I can’t keep up, and by the end of every class I’ve filled several pages of my notebook.

I had completely forgotten what terms like sine, cosine, tangent represent (but in all honesty, I don’t think I ever really understood what they meant), what’s a natural log, or many of the algebra shortcuts I once knew.

So I spent a lot of time trying to brush up on those concepts, while also learning the new material. Fortunately it’s the only course I have, so I can devote a lot of time to it, and I have.

I’ve always loved math, and in fact I started college off as a math major, but changed majors during my sophomore year. It’s a decision I’ve often questioned, and so I view this period of my life as an opportunity to, in one sense, go back in time.

As noted, the course has been challenging, but I’ve loved it. The teacher is fantastic, the students I’ve met have been quite friendly (and curious), and one of them even came over to my office to give me some tutoring! Talk about role reversal..

I’ve even enjoyed doing the homework, which I doubt I said 40 years ago.

I’ve waited to write anything about this until after I took my first test, which happened the end of last week. I remember when I first took a look at it, my thought was “this is nothing like the practice test I worked on, I don’t know how to do any of these problems.” I gave myself a couple of minutes to calm down, and then started to work methodically through the test, and most of what I had studied started to come back to me.

I got back the results of that test today. I had told my students that I would let them know how I did on the first test, so I thought I would share it on my blog as well.

I scored a 91. It wasn’t as high as I had hoped, but not as bad as some of the dreams/nightmares I had leading up to test day.

To say the course has consumed me is to put it mildly. Hopefully things will start to slow down a little bit, and the material will start coming to me a bit more naturally. But if not, all I can say is that I’m glad I read Grit this past summer…

By the way, sine is the ratio of the length of the side of a right triangle opposite a given angle divided by the length of the hypotenuse. The cosine is the ratio of the length of the side of a right triangle adjacent a given angle divided by the length of the hypotenuse. And the tangent is sine divided by cosine.

That’s enough math for one blog, so I’ll hold off on explaining natural logs.

I also hope the title of this post doesn’t turn out to be the start of a bad joke, with me as the punchline…

Everyone Is as Smart as You and Works as Hard as You. So What’s the Key to Standing Out?

According to James Runde, former vice chairman at Morgan Stanley, the critical distinguishing factor for advancing in professional services is emotional intelligence (EQ).

Runde is also the author of the book UNEQUALED: Tips for Building a Successful Career Through Emotional Intelligence, and recently wrote an article for Harvard Business Review, Why Young Bankers, Lawyers, and Consultants Need Emotional Intelligence.

Runde notes that developing EQ is just as pertinent for the recent graduate as it is for the seasoned veteran, and without it, you’re likely to be your firm’s “best-kept secret” — not recognized, not appreciated, not promoted and, often, not properly compensated.

EQ is the capacity of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and to manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt environments or achieve one’s goal(s).

Like most skills, EQ can be improved through practice; in this case by practicing:

  • how to listen
  • how to remain calm and resilient in the face of problems
  • how to value and help colleagues
  • how to connect and empathize with clients

Runde believes that ultimately EQ is about relationships, in particular:

  • Your relationship with yourself (self-awareness/adaptability)
  • Your relationships with your colleagues (collegiality/collaboration)
  • Your relationships with your clients (empathy)

Runde uses the example of how EQ can help build one’s network, a key in identifying new opportunities and advancing your career. And building a successful network is a skill that requires all three components of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, collaboration, and empathy.

By increasing EQ, young professionals are thus able to use those skills to enhance the business skills necessary for success in today’s work environment.

It was interesting reading this article, since I am currently having my students read Grit by Angela Duckworth. Duckworth believes that passion and perseverance, which she defines as the two key components of grit, are the keys to success.

I’d have to agree with Runde that perhaps grit alone is not enough for success, but when combined with a high EQ, individuals are more likely to achieve their goals.

Stupid Debate!

The debate has just started, and it’s already got me upset.

Prior to today, September 26 has always been known as the day my wife and I got married.

Now people will likely remember it for the night Hillary and Donald had their first debate.

Web sites like This Day in History will probably feature September 26, 2016 as one of the most important events to take place on this date, giving little mention to September 26, 1981.

But to me, 9/26/81, is a day that will be remembered as one of the best days of my life.

Thank you, Mary, for 35 great years!

Are There Correct Answers to These Questions?

We were having a video chat with our oldest son today, and he mentioned that he had just downloaded the book Hawaii by James Michener to his Kindle. If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s a 937-page book based on exhaustive research and told in Michener’s immersive prose. Hawaii is the story of disparate peoples struggling to keep their identity, live in harmony, and, ultimately, join together.

So I asked him if his Kindle felt any heavier after he downloaded the book. He responded by asking me if my iPhone gets heavier after I take a picture.

I said I have no idea, but for some reason it seemed logical to think that a Kindle, a smartphone, or a hard drive that is completely full would weigh more than one that is completely empty.

I tried to look on the Internet, and I came across a web site called Physics Forum where someone had asked this question. As if the name of the web site isn’t intimidating enough, try reading some of the answers.

There’s mention of electrons, entropy (both thermodynamic and information!), and lossless compression, among other words I had no idea what they meant. My general sense though, given the fact that there were four pages of answers to the question, is that there did not seem to be a clear answer.

Can’t somebody just get a really sensitive scale and measure an empty hard drive, then load it with data, then weigh it again?

Anyway, the discussion got me thinking about other questions where I am not sure what the correct answer is, or even if one exists.

Here’s one that has bothered me since I was about 10 (I was addicted to brain teasers when I was a kid):

Would a plane that’s sitting on the runway with 200 birds just sitting on the seats weigh the same as a plane sitting on the runway that has 200 birds flying around inside the airplane?


And then there’s a couple of questions that are more personal, and I’m just not sure what the correct way to respond to these questions would be.

For instance, “Are you as dumb as you look?”

I can’t imagine wanting to say yes, and somehow admitting that you are dumb. But if you answer no, aren’t you implying that you look dumb?

And here’s one more, “Did you lose a ton of weight?”

While such a question may be meant as a compliment, it could have a more evil, subtle undertone.

So how do you answer such a question. If you say yes, you are admitting that you had a ton of weight to lose. If you say no, the implication seems to be that you need to lose a ton of weight.

In general, I avoid answering such questions, and try to change the conversation to something less ambiguous, like “Should gun ownership be made illegal?” (yes) or “Should smoking be banned in all public places?” (yes)

If only all questions in life were so straightforward…

Reader Comments and Questions


It’s been a while since I’ve responded to some of the comments and questions I’ve received, most likely because I don’t receive many any.

But this past week I’ve received a couple of interesting comments that I thought would be worth sharing.

Dear Jim,

You really make it seem really easy along with your presentation but I to find this matter to  be really something which I think I would by no means understand.
It sort of feels too complicated and extremely huge for me. I am looking forward for your subsequent put up, I’ll try to get the hold of it!

Signed, Confused

Dear Confused,

You wrote this in response to my Vuja De post, in which I mentioned that the comedian George Carlin is often credited with coming up with the phrase, using it to describe “the strange feeling that, somehow, none of this has ever happened before.”

That’s exactly how I feel about your comment. It’s quite insightful, and I think by no means understand.

Dear Jim,

Very good, you did understand the principle well enough. I hope you get a lot of views, hitchhiking on someone else’s ideas too.

Signed, Hitchhiker

Dear Hitchhiker,

Thank you for your kind words in response to my post, Google Search and the Tragedy of the Commons. I didn’t really know what I was talking about in that post, since a big part of the post was just copied from Wikipedia, so I’m happy to hear that you thought I understood the principle well enough.

Your final thoughts remind me of Steve Jobs’ famous line that “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

I guess I’ve created a third option, hitchhiking on someone else’s ideas. Maybe that’s what bad artists (and lazy bloggers) do.



Not Sure If This Is Another Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Or if I Just Learned Something New

I had a doctor’s appointment today because of swelling around my eye, the result of blocked tear duct.

I was feeling a bit feverish, and told the doctors that, and asked if they were going to take my temperature. Their response was that they do not see any value in taking temperatures, and that they actually had no thermometers in the office.

Now I’m not a doctor, but that just sounds crazy. At the moment, my temperature is 102.8, and when I called the doctor’s after hours number, he still did not seem concerned.

He said to just give the antibiotics a chance to work, and hopefully the temperature will revert to normal.

Like my title says, I’m not sure if this lack of belief in the value of temperature should be part of Ripley’s believe it or not, or if it is sound medical device.

I guess at this point it’s just wait and see.

In the meantime, I realize no one really cares about my medical problems, but I wanted to write something short and sweet, and this seemed the best way to go.

The one nice thing that came out of this is that my wife keeps telling me how hot I am…

First Night of CERT Training

No, this post is not about how to properly take a breath mint, although I know many of us who could benefit from such training.

This post is about CERT, or Community Emergency Response Team. I’ve written before about how I believe I have no useful skills should a disaster strike. Well tonight was my first night at trying to remedy such a situation.

My son and I attended what is know as CERT training; from the FEMA web site, here is a description of CERT:

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program helps train people to be better prepared to respond to emergency situations in their communities. When emergencies happen, CERT members can give critical support to first responders, provide immediate assistance to victims, and organize spontaneous volunteers at a disaster site. CERT members can also help with non-emergency projects that help improve the safety of the community.

The CERT course is taught in the community by a trained team of first responders who have completed a CERT Train-the-Trainer course conducted by their state training office for emergency management, or FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI). CERT training includes disaster preparedness, disaster fire suppression, basic disaster medical operations and light search and rescue operations.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) concept was developed and implemented by the Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD) in 1985. The Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 underscored the area-wide threat of a major disaster in California. Further, it confirmed the need for training civilians to meet their immediate needs. As a result, the LAFD created the Disaster Preparedness Division with the purpose of training citizens and private and government employees.

The training program that LAFD initiated makes good sense and furthers the process of citizens understanding their responsibility in preparing for disaster. It also increases their ability to safely help themselves, their family and their neighbors. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recognizes the importance of preparing citizens. The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) and the National Fire Academy adopted and expanded the CERT materials believing them applicable to all hazards.

The CERT course will benefit any citizen who takes it. This individual will be better prepared to respond to and cope with the aftermath of a disaster. Additionally, if a community wants to supplement its response capability after a disaster, civilians can be recruited and trained as neighborhood, business and government teams that, in essence, will be auxiliary responders. These groups can provide immediate assistance to victims in their area, organize spontaneous volunteers who have not had the training and collect disaster intelligence that will assist professional responders with prioritization and allocation of resources following a disaster. Since 1993 when this training was made available nationally by FEMA, communities in 28 states and Puerto Rico have conducted CERT training.

When I discovered that my township was sponsoring a CERT program, my youngest son and I signed up with great anticipation.

Tonight was the first of seven weekly meetings where we will learn the skills and knowledge needed to be an effective part of helping our community should an emergency arrive.

Next week we meet at the local firehouse, where we will learn how to properly use a fire extinguisher, among other fire-related skills.

The skills and the knowledge we acquire will not only be helpful in case of a community emergency, but will be useful in knowing how to respond when emergencies happen on a smaller scale, such as just in our own home.

You can read more about Radnor Township’s CERT program here, and you can learn more about CERT in general by visiting the CERT website.

Thank you Radnor for sponsoring such a useful program; we look forward to the remaining parts of the program!

My 57 Seconds of YouTube Fame

A couple of years ago I happened to walk outside my house and I noticed one of the neighborhood cats chasing something down our street.

When I went to get a closer look, I noticed it was a baby rabbit which appeared to be injured.

My first thought was that this was not going to be a happy ending for the rabbit, given the reputation that most cats have. However, it didn’t appear as if the cat meant to do any harm, so I decided to film the action on my phone.

As it turned out, the video ended up with a decent number of views, almost 40,000. For me, that qualifies as viral. (For comparison purposes, a video I made about Cost Structure and Profitability, which was much more educational, only attracted 24 views. I guess that says something about accounting, my online teaching effectiveness, and our society’s obsession with cats…)

Perhaps part of the reason the video went “viral” was the title I used, “Cat and Baby Bunny Best Friends”, thinking that using the word cat would help attract viewers.

It was also quite convenient when I went to add some music to the video and found that one of the free music clips offered by YouTube seemed to fit perfectly.

So without further ado, here is the video.

Given the reach of my blog, I am sure I can another six or seven views to the total.

By the way, if you really want to see the video on Cost Structure and Profitability, here you go!

As I tell my students, this video comes in quite handy on those nights when you are having trouble falling asleep…